Olli Caldwell kicked off his rookie year in Formula 2 this weekend at Bahrain International Circuit. With every lap providing plenty to learn, Olli battled against his rivals and mechanical woes in the opening event of the 2022 season.
Back in Bahrain following the pre-season test just a few short weeks ago, the Formula 2 paddock was buzzing with anticipation ahead of Round 1. The 2022 season comprises of a qualifying session on Friday and 2 races – starting with the shorter Sprint Race on Saturday, ending with the longer format Feature Race on Sunday morning. Having had his first taste of F2 machinery in the final two events of 2021, Olli Caldwell was certainly eager to get his first full season at the top tier of junior formulae underway.
Learning with every lap
With full focus on this being a formative year in his young career, the Alpine Academy driver set his sights on building his skills and deepening his understanding of the car. Hitting the ground running, he managed to show strong pace in the free practice session on Friday afternoon, which saw him place in the top 10.
Moving into qualifying was Olli’s first time running on the softer compound tyre. Without experience he managed to extract the most out of the tyre where he could, placing himself in 10th early on in the session. With the times tumbling in and traffic causing some issues, unfortunately Olli was one of the drivers who found their lap time was deleted for track limits. However, finishing the session with 17th place on the grid, it was a solid start for the rookie.
Eyes forward and focused on fighting forward when the lights went out for the first time in 2022, Olli immediately got to work. Battling hard from the off, he managed to score a position in the opening lap as he engaged wheel-to-wheel with Fittipaldi and Bölükbasi. Swapping places through the sweeping corners of the Sakhir circuit until the race was neutralised by an early safety car appearance. At the restart, Olli began to hold off the pressure from behind as it soon became clear he was suffering engine issues. From there on, the British driver set about managing his engine and keeping his nose clean. Having fought his way to what would’ve been a strong finish, he was dealt some last lap heartbreak as his engine gave out in the final moments of the race, causing him to pull up beside the circuit in a plume of smoke. Despite being disappointed with how his efforts ended, the resolute racer turned his attention to the next race.
From storming starts to tough times
Back on track on Sunday morning, Olli started from 17th for the Feature Race. With a stalled car on the grid, they headed round the formation lap as the car was retrieved, ready to line up on the grid once again. With the advantage of the softer tyre, Olli fired off the line to scale to P10 in the opening lap. A supreme showing of the rookie’s pace was a welcome boost as he engaged into battle with Sargeant, until the safety car curtailed their dueling. Unfortunately from there luck was not on his side, after the stewards deemed him out of position following a review of the start, thus handing him a hefty 10 second stop-and-go penalty. Having served the time and back on track with the harder tyre, focus moved to making the most of this on track time to gain valuable experience.
Despite his best effort to fight his way back, track limits violations and mix up with the communication saw him penalised further. But chaos up and down the grid in the closing stages actually played into Olli’s hands as he managed to sign off a tough weekend with a 17th place finish.
Focused on the positives of a tricky season opener, Olli looks ahead to next weekend:
“Overall it’s not been our weekend with the engine issues in the sprint race, followed by the penalties we suffered in the feature race. But we can take positives from the way we were running as high as P10, which is better than we anticipated for this weekend, the pace felt really good on the faster tyre. As a team we’ve learned a lot and we have areas we can work on, I’m looking forward to getting back on track and seeing what we can do in Jeddah.”
Olli Caldwell returns to the track in just a few short days when racing continues at Jeddah Corniche Circuit, returning to the track where he made his series debut in December.